Since the tender age of eight, I’ve enjoyed countless different ways to use my varied creative talents and abilities. After being taught by my maternal grandmother to crochet, I began making hats, scarfs, gloves, ponchos—you name it. When asked by my third-grade-teacher one day, “Where did your mother buy your beautiful hat?” I quickly replied, “I made it.” Shortly thereafter, I had a thriving small business crocheting different items for my teachers and family members until I completed high school.
Subsequently, I’ve enjoyed countless opportunities to venture off into many different areas within the creative arts, science and communication fields, within my professional career and community outreach.
At an early age, a positive role model for me to maintain high standards, set lofty goals and attain them, though perseverance and hard work, has been Benjamin Franklin. I have always greatly admired his work-ethic, humility and far-reaching accomplishments—that have contributed to civil liberty, education, science and the greater good for all mankind. From such a varied portfolio of achievements, I’ve learned that the true mark of success in an individual’s life depends greatly on one’s determination and wisdom—to view obstacles as only stepping-stones until the right opportunity arrives.
A life of purpose—not privilege
Benjamin Franklin’s contributions as a writer, author, publisher, scientist, statesman, inventor and diplomat have framed the establishment of many American businesses, philanthropic works, and the U.S. government. His successful achievements and philanthropic contributions were for a far greater purpose than self-fulfilling aggrandizement. He stands as the only American founding father— which has contributed to and signed—the four key documents establishing the United States Declaration of Independence (1776)—The Treaty of Alliance with France (1778)—The Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783)—The United States Constitution (1787).
For many, just contributing to one of the above four historical documents listed would be the highest accomplishment in life. But for Benjamin Franklin, living to ones’ self was not an option. With a limited formal education—which ended at age 10, he then taught himself to become a skillful writer, and by the age of 12, he was the apprentice to his older brother James, a Boston printer. Most of his writings were under pseudonyms—the first being Silence Dogood—the name alone says it all.
Among his many talents for writing and public service, he saw America, his young new homeland, as a place where one’s ideals and actions were synonymous. As a printer and publisher, he was highly successful with producing a variety of materials, including government pamphlets, books and currency. Within three years, he became the owner and publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac (1733-1758). His most infamous witty saying, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Benjamin Franklin was not only a man of high-principals and humble character—he was a man of vision. He helped establish a number of community organizations in Philadelphia, like the lending library in 1731, at a time when books were scarce in the colonies—remaining the largest U.S. public library until the 1850s. He also established the city’s first fire station, police patrol and the American Philosophical Society.
From age 12, until his death, at age 84, the accomplishments and contributions made by Benjamin Franklin are extraordinary.
Founded Philadelphia library 1731
First Fire Station
First Police Patrol
American Philosophical Society—science and scholarly pursuits
Fundraiser to build city hospital, pave and light city streets
Founder of the Academy of Philadelphia 1751—changed to University of Pennsylvania 1791
Postmaster of Philadelphia 1737
American colonies Postmaster General 1753
United States Postmaster General from Massachusetts to Georgia until 1776
Inventor and Scientist—1740–1752
Invented the lightning rod—which protected buildings from fire.
Famous kite experiment—demonstrated that lightning is electricity.
Coined electricity-related terms such as battery, charge and conductor.
Shortly, after the Revolutionary War (1775-83) had begun, he was selected to serve as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress—America’s governing body at the time.
1776—he was part of the five-member committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence.
1776—Congressional delegate sent to enlist the help of France with the Revolutionary War. France responded in 1778.
1778—As Minister to France—negotiated and drafted the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.
1787— At the age of 81—Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Urged his fellow delegates to support the U.S. Constitution—later ratified by nine states in June 1788, and George Washington was inaugurated as America’s first president in April 1789.
Franklin died a year later, at age 84, on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia—“the city of brotherly love.” An estimated 20,000 people attended his funeral at Philadelphia’s Christ Church—he is buried in the church’s cemetery. In his will, he left money to Boston and Philadelphia, which later established a trade school, science museum, and helped to fund scholarships and other community projects.
He is one of the most celebrated figures in U.S. history—over 200 years after his death—towns, schools and businesses across America bear the name of Franklin.
So, the next time you look at Benjamin Franklin’s image on a $100 bill, think of the 10-year-old illiterate boy—who taught himself to skillfully write—and used that talent to help create the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution—two most important documents establishing freedom and justice for all.
And then, consider how you too, can use your talents and abilities to change the world for the better within your community—your opportunity awaits.